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Author Topic:   Losing Objectivity
Stile
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Posts: 3863
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 2.1


Message 1 of 28 (509855)
05-25-2009 2:25 PM


Some thoughts on objectivity and growing older. Here, "objectivity" is used to describe a state of rational, critical thinking.

The initial question is "does a person lose objectivity as they grow older?"
I think the answer is yes. More commonly described as "becoming senile," losing objectivity seems to happen more to the elderly. Although I fully admit I have no numbers or text to back this up with. I am purely going off of anectotal evidence here and would appreciate input from anyone who knows better.

Assuming that objectivity is something to be desired, is there a way to keep our objectivity in good shape?

I can think of situations that one could go over, and see if the answer they came up with is objective or not. But, if the same situations are used to test for objectivity, wouln't there be a danger of simply memorizing the answers, and thinking one is still objective when one actually is not in other, new situations? If such a problem becomes a reality, wouldn't the "test for objectivity" (now only giving false-positives) only be, ironically, adding confidence in the wrong direction?

Is it possible to consistently and repeatedly test for objectivity of a growing/aging mind?
Is it possible to "exercise" objectivity?
If objectivity can decrease, is it possible to personally identify such a loss and reverse the non-objective thinking?
Are we all doomed to lose objectivity as we grow older and it's just a matter of time?
If so, what's the best method you can think of to slow such a loss?

A few things that may help with testing for objectivity:
-a willingness to be wrong
-a willingness to learn
-acceptance of not knowing everything

All thoughts and ideas pertaining to losing objectivity are welcome.

Maybe for "Is it Science" or "Miscellaneous Topics." I'm also not opposed to this going to "Coffee House" as it may be too far away from the main EvC discussion.


Replies to this message:
 Message 3 by Dr Adequate, posted 05-25-2009 4:29 PM Stile has responded
 Message 5 by Lokins, posted 06-01-2009 4:24 PM Stile has responded
 Message 6 by Taz, posted 06-01-2009 5:00 PM Stile has responded
 Message 12 by straightree, posted 08-20-2009 7:04 AM Stile has acknowledged this reply
 Message 13 by Stile, posted 02-09-2011 1:50 PM Stile has acknowledged this reply

  
AdminNosy
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Message 2 of 28 (509858)
05-25-2009 2:38 PM


Thread moved here from the Proposed New Topics forum.

  
Dr Adequate
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Posts: 16107
Joined: 07-20-2006
Member Rating: 8.3


Message 3 of 28 (509868)
05-25-2009 4:29 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Stile
05-25-2009 2:25 PM


Well, you could tackle new questions (new to you) for which there is an objective answer.

For example, there is no bullshit in mathematics. In this subject, it is quite feasible for a cute little first-year student of eighteen to argue with a white-bearded professor and to prove him wrong, because he was. There's no "wiggle room".

Of course, this way of exercising objectivity relies on you having someone around who will explain the correct answer to you; and of you having the wit to realize that you were wrong.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Stile, posted 05-25-2009 2:25 PM Stile has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 4 by Stile, posted 05-26-2009 7:29 AM Dr Adequate has not yet responded

  
Stile
Member
Posts: 3863
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 2.1


Message 4 of 28 (509936)
05-26-2009 7:29 AM
Reply to: Message 3 by Dr Adequate
05-25-2009 4:29 PM


Dr Adequate writes:

this way of exercising objectivity relies on you having someone around who will explain the correct answer to you; and of you having the wit to realize that you were wrong.

Yes, I think these two points are necessary for any valid method of exercising and testing objectivity.

1. Someone else who can explain the correct answer
2. The ability to realize you were wrong

I wonder if there's any way to personally test for retaining the ability to realize you were wrong.

A simple test would be to see how long you've gone without being corrected, I suppose. Generally, I'd think this would last a matter of days for most people. That is, if you've gone a week without ever being mistaken or corrected... perhaps it's time to double-check your willingness to be wrong. But I'm not sure how reliable this would be because it's certainly possible to "be right" for a prolonged period of time.

Validating answers is an excellent tool. But if one gets to the point that they no longer identify validating answers as a sufficient tool for marking objectivity... then it may be an unrecoverable spiral.

I suppose this really just goes back to the age-old question of how to you show someone a correction to something that they already think they know.


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 Message 3 by Dr Adequate, posted 05-25-2009 4:29 PM Dr Adequate has not yet responded

  
Lokins
Junior Member (Idle past 3430 days)
Posts: 23
From: Montreal, Quebec, Canada
Joined: 05-28-2009


Message 5 of 28 (510590)
06-01-2009 4:24 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Stile
05-25-2009 2:25 PM


Stile writes:

Are we all doomed to lose objectivity as we grow older and it's just a matter of time?

I'm not sure exactly what you mean here. "As we grow older" is a relative term, I think. I think we most likely gain objectivity as we grow from adolescence to adulthood, which can be defined as "growing older". I certainly have gained it in the past few years.

I think what you're talking about, though, is growing older as in nearing the end of our lives, correct me if I'm wrong. I think that a lot of people would lose objectivity as they grew older, yes. This is also subjective, though. Scientists who were trained to consciously be objective their entire lives would probably lose it more slowly than people who weren't.

However, I think it would be hard to avoid it altogether. As people grow older, they become more set in their ways. The ideas that they have about the world become more settled in their minds, and they begin to see them as the only possibility, reducing their openness to ideas that oppose their own. Of course, like you, I have no hard evidence for this, and I don't know how one would test it. Upon speculation, though, it would seem to make sense.

Just a side note: Stile, I realize I may have been quoting you as "Stiles" for quite some time. If I have, sorry. >_>


This message is a reply to:
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Taz
Member (Idle past 1630 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 6 of 28 (510597)
06-01-2009 5:00 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Stile
05-25-2009 2:25 PM


Stile writes:

The initial question is "does a person lose objectivity as they grow older?"


Absolutely. I've seen too many examples of the elderly being irrational while being confronted by evidence. It's kinda sad to think I'll be like that one day.

More commonly described as "becoming senile," losing objectivity seems to happen more to the elderly.

You don't need to be senile to lose objectivity.

Let me tell you a short story about my own experience to tell you what I mean. When I was in college, a professor approached me and told me he was going to spend the summer in England teaching a summer class at a university there. His wife, a retired science teacher, didn't seem to like the idea of couple of young people staying in her multi-million dollar home. Fair enough, I thought. My friends and I needed a place to stay in the summer to do our research and save up money. We assured them that we would take care of their home. And we did. Long story short, there was one incident that shows how one could lose objectivty.

My friend, a body builder, and I were cleaning the basement. We thought we'd clean up the place for them. Anyway, while we were cleaning, a big black man busted through the door right in front of us. We stood there for a couple seconds staring at him. He then said "oops, wrong house" and ran out. After the ordeal, we fixed the door and installed a new locking mechanism that made the door 10 times more secure out of our own expense. When they came back and we told them what happened, the wife was furious. She blamed the attempted burglary on our presence in her home.

Let's step back for a moment. If we hadn't been there, that burglar would have cleaned the house out. We tried to explain this to them that the attempted burglary had nothing to do with us being there and that we actually saved the place from possibly being vandalized. They wouldn't hear anything of it.

The point is I've noticed all my life that when an elderly has made up his/her mind about something, it requires an act of god to change his/her mind. It doesn't matter how logical your position is or how much evidence you have, they seem most reluctant to be swayed.

I also fully admit I don't have any number to back up my position. All I have are personal experiences with the elderly.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 1 by Stile, posted 05-25-2009 2:25 PM Stile has responded

Replies to this message:
 Message 8 by Stile, posted 06-02-2009 7:51 AM Taz has responded
 Message 10 by Blue Jay, posted 06-02-2009 1:59 PM Taz has not yet responded

  
Stile
Member
Posts: 3863
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 2.1


Message 7 of 28 (510656)
06-02-2009 7:42 AM
Reply to: Message 5 by Lokins
06-01-2009 4:24 PM


The issue
Lokins writes:

The ideas that they have about the world become more settled in their minds, and they begin to see them as the only possibility, reducing their openness to ideas that oppose their own. Of course, like you, I have no hard evidence for this, and I don't know how one would test it.

Yes, this is the exact problem I'm trying to address in this thread. I don't have much of an answer either :(
A basic, general (and perhaps therefore useless...) answer is that our brain is like any other muscle in our body... practice makes perfect.

But how do we practice objectivity over and over without falling into the unobjective traps that arise from repetition?

Stile, I realize I may have been quoting you as "Stiles" for quite some time. If I have, sorry. >_>

Don't worry about it. Happens all the time. I'm a big boy, though.. I can take it. *sniff* Don't look at mee!!! :)


This message is a reply to:
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Stile
Member
Posts: 3863
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 2.1


Message 8 of 28 (510660)
06-02-2009 7:51 AM
Reply to: Message 6 by Taz
06-01-2009 5:00 PM


Taz writes:

You don't need to be senile to lose objectivity.

Yes, you're right. I was trying to give an excuse for it :)

The point is I've noticed all my life that when an elderly has made up his/her mind about something, it requires an act of god to change his/her mind. It doesn't matter how logical your position is or how much evidence you have, they seem most reluctant to be swayed.

Although I have seen exceptions, this is pretty much what I've witnessed as well.

It's kinda sad to think I'll be like that one day.

This is the exact reason for this thread. I share this fear and I'm for any and all suggestions to help prevent such things.

But, how do you prevent something that (once it happens to you) you don't even acknowledge that it's there?

All I have so far is a few tips to keep in mind:
-always remember that you could be wrong/mistaken
-as you get older and older, there'll be "more" (relatively) younger and younger people. Generally, we don't like being told we're wrong by younger people or anyone we deem as "below" us for whatever reason... We need to keep a conscious effort to listen for the arguement and not worry about the source.
-keep ourselves surrounded with friends/family/others and keep social situations alive. The more alone and removed we become from other people, the easier it will be to fall into the trap that our personal thoughts are the only ones that matter

...they may be decent tips, but that's all they are... just tips. I'm hoping for a more objective, sure-fire way to prevent (or at least slow) such an aging-of-the-mind process.


This message is a reply to:
 Message 6 by Taz, posted 06-01-2009 5:00 PM Taz has responded

Replies to this message:
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Taz
Member (Idle past 1630 days)
Posts: 5069
From: Zerus
Joined: 07-18-2006


Message 9 of 28 (510677)
06-02-2009 11:47 AM
Reply to: Message 8 by Stile
06-02-2009 7:51 AM


Stile writes:

This is the exact reason for this thread. I share this fear and I'm for any and all suggestions to help prevent such things.

But, how do you prevent something that (once it happens to you) you don't even acknowledge that it's there?


Well, they say the first step toward solving a problem is admitting there is a problem.

I remember right before I graduated from high school my English teacher had us all write a letter to ourselves 3 years in the future. 3 years later, I received a letter from myself, which was a completely different person than what I remembered. Inspired by this, I did it again right before I graduated from college. Again, 3 years later I received a letter from my former self, and again I turned out to be a completely different person than I remembered.

Perhaps I should do something like this for my old age. I could write something like "for goodnessake don't be a grumpy old man..."


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Blue Jay
Member (Idle past 1036 days)
Posts: 2843
From: You couldn't pronounce it with your mouthparts
Joined: 02-04-2008


Message 10 of 28 (510685)
06-02-2009 1:59 PM
Reply to: Message 6 by Taz
06-01-2009 5:00 PM


Hi, Taz.

Taz writes:

The point is I've noticed all my life that when an elderly has made up his/her mind about something, it requires an act of god to change his/her mind. It doesn't matter how logical your position is or how much evidence you have, they seem most reluctant to be swayed.

Sometimes I'm like that, and I'm only 26. :o


-Bluejay (a.k.a. Mantis, Thylacosmilus)

Darwin loves you.


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bluescat48
Member (Idle past 2528 days)
Posts: 2347
From: United States
Joined: 10-06-2007


Message 11 of 28 (510689)
06-02-2009 2:17 PM
Reply to: Message 10 by Blue Jay
06-02-2009 1:59 PM


bluejay writes:

Sometimes I'm like that, and I'm only 26.

What has age to do with it. From what I can see, the range of age on this forum is from teens to septagenarians. There is obstinance all the way through.


There is no better love between 2 people than mutual respect for each other WT Young, 2002

Who gave anyone the authority to call me an authority on anything. WT Young, 1969

Since Evolution is only ~90% correct it should be thrown out and replaced by Creation which has even a lower % of correctness. W T Young, 2008


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straightree
Member (Idle past 3090 days)
Posts: 57
From: Near Olot, Spain
Joined: 09-26-2008


Message 12 of 28 (520250)
08-20-2009 7:04 AM
Reply to: Message 1 by Stile
05-25-2009 2:25 PM


Objectivity
I know the term objectivity is widely used in the sense you are using it here. So there is nothing wrong with the use you make. Nevertheless, I think that it is good to restrict its use, because subjective, as used in the knowledge theory, is only anything that is sensed by a subject.

May be if we change "objectivity" by "honesty" or "truthfullness", we would make a contribution to clarify lexicon and also concepts. Also, in a way, honesty has more an ethical or moral connotation, which I thing applies to your purpose better than a term, objectivity, that pertains more to the world of knowledge.

Take this only as a positive suggestion, I am not interested in entering any definitions debate.

As I pertain to the group of forum elders, I also will comment that defects, usually, grow stronger with age, but also virtues. So a deceiving person will grow to be more deceiving, an honest one to be more honest.


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Stile
Member
Posts: 3863
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 2.1


Message 13 of 28 (603995)
02-09-2011 1:50 PM
Reply to: Message 1 by Stile
05-25-2009 2:25 PM


Keep up your rationality by being... irrational?
I've been thinking about the human issue of losing objectivity/rationality and how to identify it on an internal level again.

I still don't think it's possible to eliminate. Internal issues have a very nasty habit of not conforming to external measurements... mostly on account of them not being external and all. However, I do think I have an idea on how to hopefully mitigate the issue.

Here's the major problem as I see it. And, as we all know, as I see things is the only way that actually matters:

Human beings are very good at identifying patterns and compartmentalizing ideas/thoughts based upon these patterns. "Very good" here means we do it a lot, and we can do it unconciously a lot too. "Very good" here does not mean this is always beneficial to us, which sucks a certain kind of ass.

Now, let's assume we get into a position of being excellent at being rational... beings. Not only are we very rational in our decisions, but we also know that we're very rational such that we can identify our ideas internally as "Yay, another rational idea for me!"

However, as humans we are also very good at making mistakes and errors. So, eventually it is possible for us to do something mostly-rational, but not totally-rational. Just a mere sliver of irrationality that hardly makes a difference. Also, because of our "very good" way of identifying and compartmentalizing, it's possible that we see this small difference as negligible, ignore it, and label this slightly-irrational idea as "Yay, another rational idea for me!"

One or two of these errors slipping through isn't going to make a difference. But, what if the issue starts to evolve? Let's say we compartmentalize more and more mere-sliver-of-irrationality ideas as "Yay, another rational idea for me!" Then, it's quite possible that the mere-sliver can turn into a moderate-sliver and the same "very good" method of human compartmentalization ends up storing many moderate-sliver-of-irrationality ideas as "Yay, another rational idea for me!"

Taking this further, it's easy to see that it's possible for us to move from totally-rational to hardly-rational, or maybe even pretty-irrational while still thinking that we're actually still being rational. Of course, this process would likely take decades for us not to notice the slow movement... but it's still a possiblity that we shouldn't ignore if we want to remain rational beings.

So, how do we get around this issue?
-monitor our pride by double-checking our decisions with other people who also claim to be rational and be open to being wrong

But, this requires other people. I think I've thought of a way to help mitigate the issue internally:

We need to practice at being irrational.

If we are always rational, then obvoiusly we're going to think we're always rational, and we're going to think that everything we do is always rational. This is exactly the kind of mind-environment where the above Major Issue can thrive within our unconcious and work against us actually remaining as rational as possible.

However, if we practice being irrational every now and then, our minds can become familiar with what irrationality is. As long as we remember to "know" (compartmentalize) when we're being rational vs. when we're being irrational... our brains will be better equipped to help identify any possible sliver-of-irrationality that our unconcious compartmenatization techniques try to label as "Yay, another rational idea for me!"

That is, the less we compartmentalize "all ideas we internally create" into the rational-bin, and the more we train our brains to compartmentalize "rational" vs. "irrational" on the ideas we internally create... then the better off we'll be from falling into the trap of the Major Issue outlined above.

*looks around at empty room*

Well, I think it's kind of interesting...


This message is a reply to:
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Replies to this message:
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ringo
Member
Posts: 17665
From: frozen wasteland
Joined: 03-23-2005
Member Rating: 3.2


Message 14 of 28 (603998)
02-09-2011 2:15 PM
Reply to: Message 13 by Stile
02-09-2011 1:50 PM


Re: Keep up your rationality by being... irrational?
Stile writes:

-monitor our pride by double-checking our decisions with other people who also claim to be rational and be open to being wrong

But, this requires other people.


As I see it, it's a mistake to think of objectivity as an individual endeavour. We need other people to tell us we're wrong. We need peer review. We need somebody to point out the speck in our eye even if he has a beam in his own eye.

"Losing objectivity" is mostly about losing humility. The more you know, the more you think you know - but it should be the opposite.


"I'm Rory Bellows, I tell you! And I got a lot of corroborating evidence... over here... by the throttle!"

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Stile
Member
Posts: 3863
From: Ontario, Canada
Joined: 12-02-2004
Member Rating: 2.1


Message 15 of 28 (603999)
02-09-2011 2:23 PM
Reply to: Message 14 by ringo
02-09-2011 2:15 PM


Re: Keep up your rationality by being... irrational?
ringo writes:

As I see it, it's a mistake to think of objectivity as an individual endeavour.

Oh... I fully agree.

I didn't intend that rant to be a substitute for external evaluation. Matching observations with other people is the backbone of remaining objective and rational.

I only think this merits attention because it's good to have as many ways as possible to battle "losing objectivity." And this is the best way I can think of for doing such internally.

Not everyone is so blessed as to always have other people around, or be around other people... as easy as it may sound.

Certainly not a replacement, simply "another tool," and a secondary one at that.


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